Make a Board Game Out of Your Children's Toys

A picture of a child playing a life-sized board game
Make a life-sized board game out of your children's toys. Photo © Apryl Duncan

Bored with board games? Make a life-sized board game out of your kids' toys to burn off some kid energy and have fun at the same time. It's a win-win!

Pick a Game

Decide on the type of game you'll play. Will the kids need to meet a specific goal, such as earning a certain amount of items for game play to end, or does the first person to cross the finish line win?

Here are a few examples of game play.

You can always try variations of the game each time you play.

  • Each child carries a bag. Small toys, serving as tokens, are placed on each game square. The child with the most tokens at the end of the game wins.
  • The first child to cross the finish line wins a prize.
  • There is no winner! Kids play just to conquer the obstacles on your game board, act silly and have fun.

Create Game Cards

Use construction paper or card stock to make instruction cards for your board game. Be silly if you're just having fun (hop on one leg while you say the alphabet) or serious if you're using the game as a studying tool (What city was the first U.S. capital?).

Sample instructions for your game cards could be:

  • Aliens ate your homework. Go back 2 spaces.
  • You won a pet look-a-like contest. Earn 2 tokens.
  • Hold your tongue while counting backwards.
  • You left your toys out in the rain. Lose a turn.
  • Say something nice about your sibling.

    Raid Your Other Board Games

    Grab a spinner or dice out of one of the board games you already own. The kids will spin or roll the dice when it's their turn.

    If you want your entire game to be homemade, make oversized dice using medium-sized boxes instead. Just tape up the boxes, and use a marker to place dots numbering 1-6 on each side of the box.

    The kids will love rolling the giant dice!

    Find Other Objects You Can Use

    Look around the house for objects to use in your game. If the goal of your game is for kids to pick up special items along their route to the finish line, look for small toys they can fit into a bag they can carry while they play. Balls used for ball pits, toy cars, crayons, coins or small dolls work well as tokens kids can collect as they play.

    But be sure to throw in some obstacles for a twist to your game. A tunnel, indoor slide, ball pit and large pillows are just some of the objects you can use to make your board game more fun for the kids.

    Design Your Gaming Area

    Use painter's tape or masking tape to create your board game spaces on the floor. Your game can wind through the house or be restricted to one room.

    As you build your board game, incorporate the objects you picked out in step 4. For example, create a space leading up to a tunnel. Now tape off a space on the opposite side of the tunnel.

    The picture at the top of this page shows you an example of a board design using a slide, tunnel and ball pit as obstacles. Kids will love landing on the space that lets them crawl through the tunnel or play in the ball pit!

    Play the Game

    You've just built a life-sized board game. Now the kids are the game pieces.

    When you're finished, rip up the tape for easy clean up. And try a new game board design the next time you play.

    A Few Other Tips for Your Life-Sized Board Game

    1. Wacky game cards liven up the action. Even if you're using the game for studying, throw the kids a curve ball with crazy cards like, "You've got 1 minute to raid the fridge for a snack." Game cards for smaller children can read, "Ticklefest! Prepare to be tickled for 30 seconds!"
    2. For preschoolers, keep the game simple and active. They'll be happy climbing, jumping and crawling through the obstacles to get to the finish line.
    3. To use the game as a teaching tool, game cards can be written for everything from letter recognition to basic math questions. Kids will love not having to sit at a table staring at a book to learn something new.
    1. To use the game for studying, each game card can contain a question related to their schoolwork. Let them earn points per question that they can cash in at the end of the game or they can collect candy as they advance spaces on the board. Set the rules so that they also lose some of those rewards if they get a question wrong.
    2. Switch up your game design and goals to keep the kids interested. One day play a round that lets them pick up small objects along their route. The next, ask them questions about a certain subject in school with a prize at the finish line.

    Other Materials You'll Need to Build a Life-Sized Board Game:

    • Construction paper or card stock to make game cards.
    • Painter's tape or masking tape (other tape could leave your floor sticky).
    • Objects from around your house to use as obstacles and tokens.
    • Spinner or dice from one of your other board games.